Monday, May 25, 2020

Finally. Some Shooting. Finally.

It's been a while, for sure, but I finally got to enjoy some shooting activities this weekend when the monthly IDPA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club resumed after a break for the Wuhan virus. I hadn't shot for nearly three months, and my range bag literally had dust on the top. The weather, which has been all over the place of late, cooperated this morning with the temperature hitting the low 80's.

The first stage our squad shot consisted of six targets spread out across the bay and hidden by various walls and non-threats. The targets were visible as you moved across the stage along a railing. With proper planning, they could all be seen from two positions. It was a good shake off the dust stage.

The next shooting challenge was a line of seven targets all shot while standing behind a table. The starting position was with the unloaded gun on the belt, and the first magazine held in both hands. This was my best stage overall, despite fumbling the start by missing the slide with my racking hand.

An unloaded gun start was also featured on the next stage. This time, the all magazines were required to be stowed on our person. Since I only use two magazine pouches, that meant starting with the first mag stuffed in my waistband. This load went more smoothly than the previous start. After loading and engaging three close targets, we made a somewhat awkward transition around a barrel and wall to the next point of cover and engaged two more targets. At this point, the gun was emptied of the 10 starting rounds, but my brain was ready to fire the "extra" 11th round, as if it was a loaded gun start. That momentary confusion resulted in my doing a standing reload, instead of more efficiently reloading while moving to the last point of cover. There are still some cobwebs to be dusted off it seems. 

The next stage was rather interesting, and had us shooting from a semi-enclosed space. A triangle formed by stack of barrels and a fault line, restrained all shooting through narrow openings between the barrels. The targets were arrange in a "V" that came to a point centered down range. Shooting the targets in priority meant alternating sides as you shot targets at varying distances. The first two targets, mid-range, where the ones visible at the start. Those were shot, then the shooter moved slightly forward, making the closest targets visible, before moving focus to the threats further down range. Shooting among the barrels gave the added distractions of bouncing the sounds of gunfire and the flying brass back to the shooter. Once it was all said and done, it was a fun stage to shoot. 

Finally, we got to the stage we had been hearing about all morning. A two-string scenario stage, shot with the support hand only. String 1 started with the loaded gun in our support hand, with the barrel touching a mark on the wall. We then engaged two targets to our left, and a third around the left side of the wall. The second string was shot to the opposite of the stage, engaging one open target to the right of the wall, then moving forward to find two more target around another wall. 

Seeing friends at the range had been a long-missed pleasure. The idea of not shaking hands in greeting and being reminded to "stand six feet apart" puts a damper on the reunion, but it was still a fun morning. I really don't understand why it's called social distancing, there is nothing social about the restrictions being imposed upon society. Perhaps compliance conditioning is a better term. 

Shooting the five stages took only about two hours. I was pretty satisfied with how I shot, finishing 4th of 13 in SSP. I was a little slow in my movement, and certainly a little sloppy in shooting. However, I had no targets that scored lower than -2, had no hits on non-threats, or procedural penalties. All in all a very good morning and a welcome sign of more matches anticipated soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Fine Cigar and Ale Pairing

When the work week was done, and Friday dinner complete, it was finally time to kick off the holiday weekend with a cigar and a beer on the deck. I had recently come across some 2013 bottles of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale in the basement, and had already earmarked at least one of them for this weekend. Perusing the humidor for a suitable companion to the strong beer, I selected an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo. I retired to the porch for what I knew would be a pleasant flavor experience.

The Bigfoot Ale was a good as I remembered it to be. While savoring the flavor, I realized that it had been several years since I had enjoyed this annual Winter release from Sierra Nevada. The mouthfeel was full, and mildly carbonated. It sports a sweet malt backbone that finishes with the rich bitterness of hops. Even after nearly seven years of "cellaring," the full hop bitterness is still strong on the palate. The 9.6% ABV was barely detectable, the alcohol well masked by the strong bittersweet flavors.

The Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial is one of my favorite smokes. It sports a beautiful Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers, creating a full bodied smoke. Rich flavors of cocoa, coffee, roasted nuts, and cedar made for a fitting companion to the rich bitterness of the beer. The cigar gave a nearly two-hour smoke with a perfect burn from beginning to end.

All too soon the cigar neared its end, though outlasting the ale in my glass. I held on to the hot nub for as long as I could, the flavor never wavering. This was a thoroughly enjoyable combination, and one worth repeating. While my stock of 2013 Bigfoot is limited, I just happen to have bottles from other years stashed away. The Oliva stick was the last of my stock, but that shortfall is easily remedied by a trip to my local tobacconist. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Slew of Weekend Treats

The weekend was mostly more of the same, although there were a few niceties thrown in to the mix. Lord Northam has granted a few freedoms to his subjects in some areas of the state, so we saw a bit of normality. I had already squeezed in mowing the lawn on Friday, which left my Saturday morning a little more open, so I drove over to the local chain coffee franchise and treated Colleen and myself to a cup of frou-frou coffee. As I sat in the drive-thru line that wrapped twice around the building, I anticipated what I predicted to be a great cigar pairing.

I had first smoked the new Rocky Patel Number 6 last fall at a local lounge. I found the cigar to have an enjoyable flavor, but not the robust bold notes to which I typically gravitate. However, as a morning cigar with coffee, it held great promise.

Coffee, earth, and a touch of sweetness come through in this smoke. As predicted the pairing with the creamy coffee was delightful. The one cup of coffee was insufficient for the two hour smoke from this toro size cigar. I made my myself a mug of rich, french roast to enjoy. The cigar was just as pleasant with the coffee black as it was with the milk-rich version. Though one of the mildest cigars from Rocky Patel, the Number 6 has plenty of flavor to remain interesting to the very end.

Saturday's other treat, was the arrival of a summer fun care package from Tröegs Brewing. Samples of four of their summer ales were included. It's been a while since we were able to review some beers, so it's with much anticipation that I look forward to cracking those in the near future.

On Sunday, we shopped for, and then planted some new ornamentals around the house. The labor done, Colleen and I decided to take advantage of the government "permission" for restaurants to serve patrons at outdoor seating. We headed over a local ice cream stand and treated ourselves to some good ol' fashioned banana splits. These were the real deal; three flavors of ice cream, strawberry and pineapple toppings, whipped cream, cherries on top, and even some peanut sprinkles. We sat outside, at tables, and there were other people at nearby tables, and for a moment we could all forget about the plan-demic. And the splits were delicious!

Photo by Colleen

Coming home, we decided we weren't hungry for dinner. No surprise there. So I retired to the porch with a cigar. Going to the extreme flavor opposite of Saturday morning's cigar I opted for a La Flor Dominica Double Ligero Maduro. This LFD is a full-bodied, full-strength smoke, and one I enjoy regularly. Since I was still stuffed from the afternoon "dessert" I opted for only my bottle of water to accompany.

As is obvious from the above photo, my beverage choice soon changed. After smoking the cigar for a bit, I realized it really needed a pairing stronger than water. I grabbed a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oak and poured a wee dram. Perfect. In fact, I added a few more pours before the smoke was complete. The strong espresso, dark chocolate and cedar notes complimented the oaky richness of the Bourbon in a wholly satisfying manner.

Despite ongoing pandemic pandering, there are signs of a return to normalcy and commonsense appearing. Getting out and about, though to a limited extent, and enjoying a number of my guilty pleasures over the weekend was a welcome respite. The upcoming week looks to be cooler and wetter, which will be beneficial to the new plantings. I am stuck inside working anyway. Here's looking forward to next weekend, which happens to be a three day break. There might even be a return to shooting in store!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Old Fashioned

My favorite alcoholic accompaniment for a fine cigar is a good beer, or a good Bourbon. Colleen and I enjoying experimenting with various cocktails, but when it comes to mixed drinks, I truly enjoy the simple Old Fashioned. The classic drink is a an excellent mate to a fine cigar.

While the variations on this drink are innumerable, this is the recipe I've adapted for my taste.
2 ounces 4 Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
¼ ounce Simple Syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitter
3 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters
1 Orange Peel
1 Luxardo Cherry
1 Large Ice Rock 
In a rock's glass, combine Bourbon, Simple Syrup, and the Bitters. Give it quick stir. Add in one large ice cube. Garnish with the Orange Peel and a Luxardo Cherry. 
Enjoy. Repeat.
The single large ice cube is a must as far as I am concerned. I rarely add ice to my whiskey, but if I do, it must be a slow melting single rock. They're a pain to make, but we keep them on hand nonetheless. If a Luxardo Cherry is not available, skip it. Please, no Maraschinos. 

I rarely have just one.

With Fratello D.M.V. Virginia

With Fratello Navetta Inverso

Monday, May 4, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Beer and Cigar Pairing

On Sunday we finally got to a point where we needed to head out for a few supplies. Walking the aisles of the store I was reminded why I dislike crowds and shopping in mega-stores. That disdain made all the greater dealing with the dystopian drama of face masks and directional arrows herding people like sheep. On the bright side, I also stopped into another store and picked up a few more cigars to put in the humidor for another day.

The shopping chores done, I needed a strong beer and a strong cigar. The development of a sunny, warm afternoon made the deck all the more welcoming. I checked the beer fridge and found a Founders KBS Espresso. The bourbon barrel-aged stout gets the addition of espresso beans during the aging, and checks in at a respectable 12% ABV.

A hearty beer merits a hearty cigar. I grabbed a Blanco Nine JT Limitado that's been aging in my humidor for almost two years. The limited edition cigar actually has a warning on its website, "WARNING!! 100% LIGERO." I've seen reviews with folks counseling on the strength of the smoke. I've always been a fan of extremes, whether it's beer, whiskey, or cigars, so was looking forward to the adventure.

The stout features a flavorful mix of bourbon, caramel, and coffee notes. The alcohol content is well masked, with no harshness noticed. Definitely one you want to sip and savor.

The Blanco cigar did not disappoint and complimented the beer to perfection. Cocoa, leather, espresso, and cedar spice were present throughout the nearly two hour smoke.

I nursed my beer through about the halfway point of the smoke. The nicotine strength didn't make itself felt to any extreme. Maybe the effects were checked by the alcohol strength of the Founders stout. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

When the smoke was finally finished, it was time to fire up the grill and prepare some spicy barbecued chicken for our dinner. Sunday was certainly a full-flavored sort of day.

If you're interested more cigar and beer pairings, as well as other tidbits that don't make the Musings, check out my Instagram content.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Cigars and A Fire

And sometimes whiskey. It's one of the few things I enjoy about cold weather.

Okay, I cheated on that one.

But, now I'm ready for Spring to actually arrive, and stay.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Things I've Learned During the Pandemic

When trying to cut my own hair, I am not good at mirror movements.

I realized it was moot to wonder when I would have time to smoke all the cigars I bought over the winter.

I do not own sufficient bar tools. I also would appreciate a wider selection of cocktail glassware.

I still have no motivation to clean out the garage, no matter how bored I get.

The local liquor store keeps a case of Tito's Vodka right by the register.

I actually miss seeing people.

As someone who already worked from home, I am essentially locked down in my office.

Many self-proclaimed freedom loving "conservatives" quickly embrace socialism when life gets a little tough.

The 2018 Fratello D.M.V. Virginia and an Old Fashioned makes a perfect before dinner pairing.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Another Weekend and More of the Same

And here we go again still. Fortunately, my work week is as busy as ever, and actually more so. There is occasional time for a beer or a bourbon, and maybe a cigar. But it's the weekend when we seek out fun and relaxation. Sadly, the options are limited given the current lockdowns, and the oppressive decrees from our state government.

On a bright note, it was the Easter weekend! A time for reflection and hope of a new beginning. Sadly, the socialist-in-charge, Governor Northam, spent this time of celebration for Christians proudly touting on social media the new attacks on freedom and democracy which he had signed into law. In an exceptional show of arrogance, he chose Good Friday to brag that he had loosened restrictions on abortion even further, paving the way for even more children, historically those of minority background, to be slaughtered in the name of "convenience." Among his other gleeful pronouncements over the Easter weekend was the signing of various bills increasing the ease of committing voter fraud, and ones making it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones, while at the same time making plans to release more criminals from prison.

All those attacks on freedom and democracy aside, I made every effort to keep it a joy-filled weekend. I did also resolve to skip any chores in the course of the Holy Feast, though I did replace a couple of defective smoke detectors in the house. Some chores must really be completed, no matter what.

Saturday afternoon I made a quick trip over to 1781 Brewing to pick up a growler of their delicious König Fruhling Doppelbock. While there, I ran into a good friend who was also picking up some tasty brew for his weekend celebrations. Despite being nearby neighbors we hadn't seem each other in a couple of months. A few minutes of catching up was one of the highlights of the day.

My beer in hand, I settled on the sunny deck and fired up a Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVII. This full bodied smoke was complimented quite well by the caramel and malty notes of the beer.

Near the end of the smoke, my beer glass long empty but not yet refilled, Colleen finished her preparation in the kitchen for the next day's Easter dinner, and joined me on the deck. "Would you pour me one of those?" she inquired. I also poured myself another glass and grabbed another stick from the humidor.

The next cigar selection was a NUb Maduro by Oliva Cigars. This 4x60 stick offers full flavors of espresso and chocolate. Again, a wonderful match for the Doppelbock and perhaps my favorite stick of the weekend.

That wrapped up the daylight part of Saturday, and we retired inside for dinner, followed by random shows on Netflix. (Another "normal" part of the day of late.)

And then it was Easter morning! Hallelujah! Reminded again that our governor has decreed public religious gatherings to be an illegal activity, we streamed the live Easter Mass into our living room. Though distant, it was still most comforting. A tasty brunch was soon being devoured, after which I realized, although it was cloudy and breezy outside, the temperature was rising into the 70's. That meant more deck time was in store.

Colleen and I went out to the screened porch for some fresh air and reading. I poured us both glasses of Bold Rock Cider. For myself, an Ave Maria Immaculata was procured from the humidor. This mild smoke features a Connecticut Shade wrapper, and Nicaraguan binder and fillers. Having been in my humidor for close to two years, it seemed even milder than I remembered. However, in combination with the cider, it was immensely enjoyable.

After that, we enjoyed a long video visit with our son and his fiancé. While we had planned on a  weekend visit from them, circumstances prevented that. After a long absence with no visits, even the virtual version was a welcome pleasure. The long chat left some dinner preparations behind schedule, so there was time for a before dinner beer and smoke.

The round two selection was another glass of the 1781 Brewing Dopplebock and a Liga Privada Undercrown Sungrown from Drew Estate. The medium bodied stick offered sweet and cedar notes, and a good long burn.

Finally we turned our attention to the roasted lamb dinner that Colleen had prepared. A newly found recipe featuring garlic, (100 cloves!) limes, and peanuts is definitely a keeper. Typically we grill our lamb outdoors, but the grill gave up the ghost a few weeks ago and has yet to be replaced. Dessert was an interesting and tasty Ricotta based cheesecake. As there was only two of us, we will get to enjoy leftovers for several days during this Octave of Easter.

So once again, that's all I know. The governor has decreed the lockdown will continue until at least June 10. (Not so coincidently, the day after our scheduled elections.) He seems to be doing his best to destroy small business and create a population dependent on government support. I will once again try to get in a trip to the outdoor range this week. It would be a welcome change of pace.